Barry Jackson

This d-end could end up being UM’s most impactful transfer. And he’s made a key change

The last time anyone saw Trevon Hill in a football game, he was powering past Old Dominion offensive linemen for a couple of sacks, two weeks after sacking then-FSU quarterback Deondre Francois twice in last season’s Labor Day night game.

But it’s what happened at halftime of that Sept. 22 Virginia Tech-ODU game that led to his departure from the Hokies and his eventual journey to Miami, where he’s expected to be a key part of what could be one of the best defensive end rotations in the country.

And the player the University of Miami is getting is the same skilled, high-effort pass rusher but also a more even-keeled person, Hill said in an interview this week.

First, let’s go back to that September day that ended Hill’s Hokies career.

Hill, who is from Virginia Beach and starred at Salem High, wrote Jan. 8 on social media as part of a long post: “Where I’m from we don’t take losing lightly, and I just wanted to instill that in my teammates and bring the best out of them. During the Virginia Tech game at ODU, specifically during halftime, I was having a conversation with my teammates, and one of the staff overheard a part of the conversations.

“Words were said and a heated exchange took place. To my knowledge no formal investigation or meetings happened with the athletic department before my dismissal was finalized the next day. To this day, I’m still confused, and hurt, about why my dismissal was the solution to a problem I sincerely believe could have been talked out.”

Hokies coach Justin Fuente said Hill was suspended “for not upholding the high standards that we have for our student-athletes at Virginia Tech” but never elaborated on what Hill specifically did, beyond saying it was “not one incident.”

UM, after doing research, had no concerns with Hill’s comportment and moved quickly to add a player who produced 94 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11 1/2 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and interception over the past three seasons.

“It came down to here, Maryland, Missouri, ODU,” Hill said this week. “I was on the verge of going to Mizzou honestly. I kind of wanted to be home [in the Chesapeake, Va. area, a short drive from the ODU campus], but I didn’t because I know the area where I’m from is not the best, so I could have got caught up in some things I didn’t want to get caught up in.

“I wanted to clean my image up because there’s a lot of rumors and things going on out here. Being in Miami, if I can do well in Miami and clean it up in Miami in a pro city, I know scouts or anybody else will say, ‘He can do it anywhere.’”

He said he has grown considerably as a person since being dismissed by Virginia Tech.

Where specifically?

“Biting my tongue,” he said. “It’s been hard for me to bite my tongue. That was one of the things I really worked on, trying to stay more level headed about things and not just blow up about things because it can go out of proportion.

“Just trying to work on being more mature. I know I would get hot about a lot of things. Trying to stay more calm.”

Hill sustained a shoulder injury during that ODU game, including “a labrum injury and cracked bone” and was cleared for full football work less than a month ago.

In part because he couldn’t join the Hurricanes for spring practice, he’s on the second team, behind Jon Garvin and Scott Patchan.

“I have no problem with that,” Hill said. “I’m just trying to be a better teammate, encourage these guys. I know what I bring to the table. Once I do step on that field, it will be straight dominance. I feel I’m a starter. Even if I come off the bench, you have that starter mentality.”

UM defensive coordinator Blake Baker praised Hill’s pass rushing skills and said Hill, who’s 6-3 and 245 pounds, and Gregory Rousseau would be the first and second defensive ends on some teams, instead of third and fourth here.

Hill, who has one year of eligibility remaining and hopes to raise his NFL draft stock, said joining Miami “was the best business decision for me, the tradition of the U, guys like Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin. You just see a whole bunch of first-rounders in that group. The type of guy I am, I know I want to be a first-rounder. This was the best fit to possibly get a chance to do that.”

But he added: “I’m not necessarily trying to impress the scouts. It’s more inner. You have to change yourself before you change anything. I’m just trying to do the best things to help me grow as a person, as a man, as a brother, as a son.”

Meanwhile, the Oct. 5 home game against Virginia Tech offers a chance for vindication, even if he’s not speaking of it in those terms.

Hill left without great affection for Fuente.

“I lost a lot of respect for somebody I had a lot of respect for,” Hill told The Richmond Times Dispatch in January. “Even though I didn’t like him much, I had respect for him. But I completely lost all my respect for that man.”

Related stories from Miami Herald